I can’t believe we were gone for two nights because it felt like a week! I told you that we went to this terrific zimmer in Abirim (terrific except for the spiders). In addition to their shepherd’s huts, they have one spacious wooden cabin for guests. They were recently covered in Haaretz which was fascinated by the fact that their cafe was self-serve honor system (not really heard of in this country I guess).
Our host, Eyal, was very down-to-earth and friendly guy. In addition to their goat farm and zimmer, Eyal takes couples out on horseback in the surrounding hills. By luck, he had a free spot for his ‘sunset ride’ and we decided to go. It felt good to be riding again–I hadn’t ridden since I was in high school but I hadn’t forgotten how to do it. The horses weaved skillfully through the shrubbery (although we had to duck a few times from getting hit by branches) and over the rocky terrain. We rode through a clearing where a very old oak tree stood–Eyal said it was about 700 years old, and I think he had gotten married under it. We became friendly with the other couple riding with us–they live on a kibbutz near Haifa–and we exchanged our info.
The next day, we hiked for five hours (!) in Nachal Cziv and Montfort, ruins which date back to the Crusaders. It’s a fairly varied landscape consisting of sunlight paths, shady forests, pools of water where you can splash and even swim, and of course the medieval ruins from which you have an amazing view of the valleys below. Had we known it would take us so long to get to Montfort from our starting point, I don’t know if we would have hicked all the way up to the fortress and all the way back down and all the way back to the car. But I’m glad we did, and I have the pictures to prove it. That evening we ate a simple and cheap meal of this bread/meat dish at a Druze restaurant 15 minutes away. The restaurant advertised that they were open 24/7 during the Lebanon War for the Israeli soldiers. Night fell and we collapsed into bed (oblivous to the lurking spiders, ew!)
The next day we drove West toward Rosh Hanikra, the northernmost point on Israel’s coast. Most of our drive was very close to the Lebanon border–but we couldn’t see Lebanon because we were separated by the hills (and I’m glad there was that natural barrier there!). Before reaching Rosh Hanikra, we stopped at an Arak distillery, run by Lebanese Christians. They gave us a tour of the factory and wished us Chag Sameach. We paid a scandalously low price for an Arak that sells for quite a lot more in the U.S. Now Eric and I are not boozers, but the stuff we bought was really incredible!
We paid a ridiculous fee to see the beautiful grottos and caverns at Rosh Hanikra. It’s interesting to note this spot is both a military lookout as well as a tourist destination (with cable cars too!). We spent another hour at a beach a few km south (but I didn’t take pics, sorry) and then drove to see Eric’s cousins in Zichron Ya’akov. It was great to be spending time with them when there wasn’t a car problem! (Thanks guys!)
The rest of the break we were in Jerusalem. We hosted a few friends for various meals in our sukkah, (buying food, cleaning up, buying more food and cleaning up again) and enjoyed the quiet of the chaggim and Shabbat. Although, by the end of the chaggim we were ready for things to get going again.
Getting back into my class/volunteer routine takes a little while and I’m missing my extra vacation sleep :). Talmud class is once again a humbling and mind-stretching experience. I struggle my way through several lines of Gemara text knowing that my translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic is vaguely correct.
To be a really learned Jew is something of an achievement–not only because you have to learn material that isn’t always straightforward, but also because there is so much material. My class is only covering one chapter of the book focused on Shabbat. Judaism is a religion that likes its books. The main thing is not to learn as much Gemara as possible during the year as possible, but to learn how to study Gemara. I’m not expecting to adopt Aramaic as my second language, but it would be great if I could pick up a few terms.
Each page of Talmud is like a page on Wikipedia or any Web site with lots of hyperlinks–one phrase can take you to a reference in the Mishna or the Torah or some other text. Although the assumption is that the reader knows what the reference is and also that the reader understands what the Talmud is trying to say–which most of us don’t. That’s why there’s a teacher to clarify the text after we’ve spent a few of hours hashing it out with our study partners.
Well, it’s been lovely touching base with you and I hope I can provide more updates soon. Have a great Tuesday!